Friday, March 27, 2009

Breezing Through Bolsa Chica

Snowy Egret by the parking lot.

Thursday 03/26/2009 was a beautiful, sunny, and breezy day at Bolsa Chica. The kind that makes me smile as I step out of the car and hang my camera around my neck, put on my back pack, and put my old zoom binoculars over my shoulder. Ah, what can be better than to be on vacation and outdoors in the Spring? The Least Terns, Royal Terns, and Forster's Terns were noisy and raucous as they set about housekeeping on the little islands and strands in the Bolsa Chica waters. The cacophony of calls was like music to my ears.

Belding's Savannah Sparrow on the footbridge railing.

As I was about to step onto the bridge, I saw Belding's Savannah Sparrow on the footbridge railing. It's an endangered sub-species of the Savannah Sparrow. These cute little guys live in marshy habitats like Bolsa Chica and it didn't seem at all bothered by the noisy nesting terns.

Least Terns, Royal Terns, Forster's Terns, Ring-billed Gulls, Brown Pelicans, and more are out on the little strips of land out in the water at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve .

And Spring at Bolsa Chica means chaotic noise from thousands of Least, Royal, and Forster's Terns. No doubt about their presence or the start of nesting season. The noise is incredible. Add to that Brown Pelicans in breeding plumage and thousands of gulls and you have a spectacular and noisy sight. Usually I also see Black Skimmers, but none were in sight today.

Birds flying every which way.

I peered through the chain link fence at the sight of thousands of white terns and gulls on the strands in the water. I walked up on the first lookout. I stood there just watching and listening--soaking it in. Something--probably a Northern Harrier spooked them and thousands of birds took wing simultaneously. Terns and Brown Pelicans filled the air. All birds on the right side of the lookout flew like something was after them to the left and crowded onto the strands shoulder to shoulder, leaving the left deserted with a few Double-crested Cormorants drying out on the empty land.

Quite a sight!

As I walked along the gravel path by the wetlands with its little channels cut through the wetlands, I came across an Eared Grebe coming into its breeding plumage.

Eared Grebe in the beginnings of breeding plumage.

The wetlands are beautiful at either high tide or low tide. The blue water and the green plants with the brown earth can be very dramatic. I saw a few Blue-winged Teals as I walked along.

Western Grebe in the Wintersburg Channel. One of several I saw today.

I walked out fast toward the mesa to see what might be out there and on the way saw a pair of Western Grebes, American Wigeons, American Coots, and a Snowy Egret in the Wintersburg Channel.

Perched on the fence before you cross the Wintersburg Channel was a wind-blown Snowy Egret. Then as I went along toward the mesa, I saw a funny sight.

The usual suspects lined up to get out of the wind. Bolsa Chica Snowy Egrets like a bank at their banks in the wind.

As I walked out toward the mesa, I came across a little group of Snowy Egrets on the rocks, who unlike the wind-blown Snowy, were trying to get out of the wind. They look so funny with their necks scrunched in and their feathers fluffed trying to keep warm, but I guess if I had a long skinny neck, I'd scrunch down, too. The Snowies are often lined up along the bank opposite to where the wind is coming from.

Overlooking the mesa a House Finch perches on a Bush Sunflower (Encelia californica).

Up on the mesa, it was full of flowers--mostly Bush Sunflowers (Encelia californica). This I say cautiously since this is not my field of expertise, but that's what they look like to me.

Just a few flowers.

Bush Sunflowers and sage on the sunny, breezy mesa.

Bush Sunflowers--a close up look.

Sage on the left and Bush Sunflowers on the right. I love the smell of the sun on sage. The view of the ocean from the top of the mesa an added bonus.

A beautiful Red-winged Blackbird shows his red epaulets up on the mesa. Time to go courting, and Red-winged Blackbirds on the mesa are flying up in the air singing and displaying their red shoulders in hopes of attracting a few mates.

Out on the mesa the sound of birds was everywhere. House Finches. Anna's Hummingbirds. White-crowned Sparrows. Common Yellowthroats. And the unusual call of the Red-winged Blackbird which always seems to have a boing in it to me. They where flying and calling out to potential mates. Perching on plants and fences singing loudly. It was something to behold.

This video would have been longer, but my card was running out of room and stopped. I changed cards, but couldn't get a good shot like this again. I hope to go back.

Male House Finch, lower left. Male Anna's Hummingbird on the top. Female House Finch upper right.

Of course the male Anna's Hummingbird that is always staking out a bush on the mesa was there. The sun was making its way down, and I wanted to get back well before dark. So I headed back to the parking lot.

And an unusual number of lizards were warming themselves in the late afternoon sun right on the path.

A Pied-billed Grebe halfway between winter and breeding plumage.

Dowitchers doing their sewing machine-like feeding.

On the way back I saw lots of Ruddy Ducks. Check out the almost completely blue bill on this male.

I walked back along the path that parallels PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). It is in disrepair and dusty, but it was quicker and sometimes there are some interesting birds to be seen there.

White-winged Scoter.

One last look out from the footbridge by the parking lot brought me the chance to see a new bird I hadn't seen before, the White-winged Scoter. (Click here for the Merriam Webster pronunciation if you don't know how to say Scoter.)

Cattails by the parking lot.

All in all a great day of walking and birding.

Home - Index - Contact - Shop - Ask the OC Birder Girl - OC Birder Girl Videos

No comments: